a roundly abused recipe

All I wanted was a teatime snack.

The granola and cookies are finished, send to distant states or just down the street to Billy’s study group, merrily bouncing around his backpack with every step and fraternizing with far less merry study aids, like textbooks. The scones, you silly thing, are for breakfast, and accordingly squirreled away in the freezer until tomorrow morning, when they will be freshly baked up at (gulp) seven o’clock. On a Sunday. Disgusting, these exams. Force you to get up early.

So. All I wanted was a teatime snack.

I had a conundrum. Barely any butter, only unsweetened chocolate squares.

Oh, and a bar of eating chocolate I threw in my cart at the grocery register yesterday. Eating chocolate as differentiated from baking chocolate, and one being sold in the candy aisle (or at the cash register for those with wills made of pudding) and one in the baking aisle. Though I’d be hard pressed to tell you the actual difference, aside from marketing. Well, this one had hazelnut toffee in it. A picture of a rhino on it. It was on sale. Proceeds go to animals. Leave me alone, I make no apologies!

So I turned to my friend, my very dear friend Nigella Lawson, and when I inquired, “How to be a domestic goddess, Nigella?”, she whispered, as is her perverse and terrible penchant, “Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake.”

What? asked I.

“This is the plainest of plain loaf cakes — but that doesn’t convey the damp, heady aromatic denseness of it. To understand that, you just have to cook it. And as you’ll see, that isn’t hard at all. Simply sliced, with a cup of tea of coffee, it’s pretty damn dreamy.” I am powerless before such recipe preambles.

So I melted the rhino chocolate with a ounce of the unsweetened baking kind for the requisite “4 ounces best bittersweet chocolate.” I made up the cup of butter with an ad-hoc silly putty of unsalted and salted butter (having both, but still not enough for the recipe), applesauce, and canola oil. I used light brown sugar instead of the recommended dark. Oy. It’s rough in this kitchen, let me tell you.

From there, it was an effortlessly one-bowl affair of mixing sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla together, and alternately adding flour, baking soda, and boiling water. Question: Can a cake recipe that includes putting the kettle on be destined for anything other than tea time? I think not.

The cake rose in the oven and sunk outside (“Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle; indeed, it will do so because it’s such a dense and damp cake,” comforts Nigella), and was simply perfect with a cup of tea: crackly crust, gooey center, and chocolate through and through. Just as God, Nigella, and the snow outside intended.

Teatime Chocolate Loaf Cake
(Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, of course)

I will spare you my inane “substitutions” for the real deal, though you should know that the cake was absolutely wonderful despite my, um, inanities. So don’t let a little thing like not having the ingredients stop you.

  • 1 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp boiling watr

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper (didn’t have this, surprise) or tin foil, and butter this besides. No sticking here!

Cream the butter and sugar together. (Folks, this is a teatime cake, a one-bowl wonder. Just use a wooden spoon; electric mixers are for fancier affairs.) Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until fully incorporated. Fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate. Spoon by spoon, gently add the flour and baking soda, alternating this with splashes of the hot water, until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter. Pour into the lined loaf pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit loose and “squidgy” inside, so a tester won’t (shouldn’t!) come out completely clean. Let cool completely in the pan before gently lifting or turning it out.

Enjoy this!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Julia on December 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Oh, this is a good cake. I haven’t made it in a few years, thanks for reminding me how wonderful it is!


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